The district governor of Koh Nheck in Mondulkiri province, Sin Vannvuth, on Tuesday confirmed that land located between the Phnom Prich wildlife sanctuary and protected forests in Royer commune, will not be seized by the state after authorities stopped its clearing.
Officials were notified about the felling of 100 hectares before prohibiting further clearing of the land.
Vannvuth said on Tuesday that people cleared the land as it was adjacent to their farmland and that it would be left in their care since it doesn’t affect the protected areas.
“The land is next to their land so how can we seize it from them? If they have put effort into clearing it, just hand it to them. If they are poor, do you want them to be poorer or what?” he asked.
Mondulkiri provincial governor Svay Sam Eang could not be reached for comment on Tuesday but said on Sunday that the land was cleared when authorities were busy with duties related to the national elections. He then ordered officials to stop the clearing.
Mondulkiri provincial environment department head Keo Sopheak could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Royor commune chief in Koh Nhek district, Pel Dit, said there hasn’t been any additional land clearing in the last few days.
Provincial coordinator for rights groups Adhoc, Eang Mengly, said on Tuesday that giving the property to people who did the clearing wasn’t right because it would serve as a “bad example” for others.
“If they violate the law and the authorities do not act against them, then how about other people who do likewise?”